The Volkswagen TSI EA888 engine has been used in several vehicles since its inception in 2007. As of 2023, the TSI EA888 engine is on its fourth generation, but we will be discussing the Gen 3 used between 2015 and 2020.
Now that the 2.0 Gen 3 has been around for eight years, its problems have started to pop up. Read on to learn the common EA888 Gen 3 problems if you want to purchase a second-hand vehicle with this engine or if you already have one.
Overview of the EA888 Engine’s Generations
The Volkswagen EA888 debuted in two different sizes —1.8t and 2.0t. The 1.8t made its first public appearance in 2007. It is a four-cylinder 1.8-liter engine that has three generations, which are commonly known as 1.8 TSI Gen1, 1.8 TSI Gen2, and 1.8 TSI Gen3. Both Gen 1 and Gen 2 are KO3 turbocharged, while the Gen 3 features an IS12 turbo.
The 2.0t debuted shortly after the 1.8t in 2008. It has four generations: 2.0 TSI Gen1, 2.0 TSI Gen2, 2.0 TSI Gen3, and 2.0 TSI Gen4. The 2.0t is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and both Gen 1 and Gen 2 are KO3 turbocharged (except the Gen 3, which features IS12 turbo). Both 1.8 and 2.0 EA888 engines are still modified and produced today.
The 2.0 TSI EA888 engine was released as a replacement for the 2.0 TSI of the EA113 engine family.
The main difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 is the improvement in the gas and oil separation device. The dipstick and the filler cap are slightly different. Other things remain the same.
However, Volkswagen engineers made several upgrades to the Gen 3. The difference between the Gen 3 and the earlier generations can be easily spotted from the appearance. The positions of the oil filler caps are different. The filler cap on the Gen 1 and Gen 2 are on the left side of the engine, but the engineers moved it to the right side on the Gen 3.
There are many other improvements on both the 1.8t and 2.0t EA888 Gen 3. They include;
- Changes on the cylinder block water channel
- The 8 weights on the crankshaft were reduced to 4 weights
- Improvements in the chain guide length
- The paper oil filter shell was introduced instead of the iron shell filters used in previous versions
- The Gen 3 uses 4 pieces of timing chain instead of the 5 pieces used in the previous versions. Though they became thicker than the previous versions.
- The tensioner becomes spiral
- The spindle bush for fixing the oil pan now features additional 4 screw holes.
- The engine balance shaft on the Gen 2 is straight. However, the Gen 3 shaft is not straight, and it is designed with eccentricity
Let’s look at the EA888 gen 3 specs to better understand the engine capacity.
EA888 2.0 engine specifications
|Production date||2008 to present|
|Cylinder head material||Aluminum|
|Engine block material||Cast Iron|
|Fuel system||Direct Injection
Direct Injection + Multi-point injection for Gen 3
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Valves per cylinder||4|
|Type of internal combustion engine||Turbocharged, Four-stroke|
|Engine oil weight||VW 504.00; SAE 5W-30, 5W-40|
|Engine oil capacity||4.6 on Gen 1 and 2
5.7 on Gen 3
|Applications||SEAT Leon, SEAT Leon Cupra, SEAT Altea, Skoda Kodiaq, Golf 6 GTI, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, Golf 7 GTI/7R, VW Passat CC, VW Passat B6/B7/B8, VW Tiguan, VW Beetle, VW Golf 5 GTI, Skoda Superb, Audi Q3, Audi Q7, Audi Q2, Audi TT/TTS, Audi A1, Audi A6, Audi Q5, Audi S3, Audi A4, Audi A5, VW T6/California, VW Sharan/SEAT Alhambra, Skoda Octavia RS, VW Scirocco, VW Eos, VW Amarok,|
Common Problems with Volkswagen’s EA888 Engine
The common causes of Volkswagen’s EA888 engine issues are excessive oil consumption, ignition coil failure, thermostat housing leaks, carbon buildup in the intake valves, water pump failure, stretched-out timing chain, and weak PCV valve.
Ignition coil failure
Let’s face it: ignition coil failure is a common issue on most turbocharged engines. And the Volkswagen’s EA888 engine is no exception. A coil pack or ignition coil is an essential component of the engine that converts the battery’s voltage to generate a spark in the spark plugs. The plugs use this spark to ignite the compressed air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.
I can’t say this is a problem that pops up every time on your EA888 engine. But if you have an engine misfire, it’s likely a result of a bad ignition coil, worn spark plugs, inappropriate plug gaps, moisture intrusion, or valve cover leakages.
High oil consumption
High oil consumption is an EA888 common issue plagued on the Gen 2 1.8t and 2.0t engines. This is why many of these engine users complained bitterly — giving Volkswagen a bad reputation. These engines take more than the normal oil range it is supposed to consume under normal operation. This can get frustrating and costly if you don’t do anything about it as soon as possible.
The high oil consumption happens because, in Gen 2, Volkswagen uses thinner piston rings. Unfortunately, the most common solution to this problem is to replace the pistons and piston rings with the ones on Gen 1. But if you are lucky, it could be just a bad positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve.
Here are the signs of high oil consumption you should watch out for:
If you notice any of these signs, have your EA888 engine checked immediately, regardless of the generation you have. But before pointing accusing fingers at the piston rings, replace the PCV valve and see if that will address the underlying problem. If that doesn’t fix the problem, have your mechanic shop run an oil consumption test to determine if the piston rings are the culprit.
The thermostat housing coolant leaks
Coolant leaks from the thermostat housing are one of the common 1.8 and 2.0 TSI EA888 Gen 3 problems. Take or leave it; the thermostat housing is a compartment that houses the thermostat, which regulates when the engine coolant should enter the engine.
The thermostat housing typically fails due to four reasons: normal wear and tear, worn parts, sludges, and severe engine overheating. However, if you cultivate a good maintenance culture, you may only have to change the housing after every 60,000 miles.
Here are the symptoms of leaking thermostat housing;
Water pump failure
Water pump failure is one of the common problems in most vehicles out there. The water pump circulates coolant throughout the engine to keep it cool and returns the coolant to the radiator when it gets warm. As the hot coolant returns to the radiator, it sends cool coolant into the engine again. This cycle continues as far as the engine is running.
Due to this crucial operation, the water pump is bound to fail at least once during the engine’s shelf life. The water pump can go bad due to several reasons, such as normal wear and tear, worn bearings, wrong coolant type, or low coolant levels.
Here are the signs of a faulty water pump you should watch out for:
- Engine overheating
- Low coolant levels
- Gunk buildup in the water pump area
- Strange engine noise.
Carbon buildup in the intake valves
Most recent direct injection engines have a recurring buildup problem in the intake valves. Carbon buildups are common with the EA888 engine generations, including Gen 1, Gen 2, Gen 3, and Gen 4 versions. While the carbon build exists on the Gen 3, it is more common in the previous generations.
Here are signs of carbon buildup you should watch out for:
- Bad gas mileage
- Mild knocking engine noise
- It’s hard starting during cold mornings.
Thankfully, you can prevent excessive carbon buildups by taking the following measures:
- Use premium gas (93+)
- Solda/walnut/media blasting (every 60k miles)
- Occasionally maintain high revs (at least run at 3000 RPM for 20-30 minutes).
Timing chain stretch
Volkswagen started using timing chains when they switched from FSI to TSI. The FSI engines use timing belts. Like the belt, the timing chains on the TSI engines are susceptible to wear and stretching.
This is one of the common EA888 engine problems users complained about. Though they don’t wear out over a short period, they need to be replaced when they go bad. However, you can extend the life of timing chains by using OE engine oil and filter.
PCV valve failure
The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV), which is mounted on top of the engine, has been a fail point on all generations of EA888 engines. A faulty PCV valve can cause several issues, such as rough idling, check engine light, engine misfire, oil leaks, and loud squealing noise.
Common Problems with EA888 Gen 3 Engine Specifically
We have seen various engine problems across EA888 engine generations, but water pump failure, intake carbon buildups, turbo failure, and oil leaks from the cam bridge/adjuster, rear main oil seal, PCV valves, and timing covers are the EA888 problems specific for Gen 3 engines.
During the production of the EA888 Gen 3, Volkswagen switched from Borg Warner to IHI as their turbo supplier. The turbochargers used in the Gen 3 are not reliable like the previous ones.
The EA888 Gen 3 uses three different turbos, depending on the engine. The 1.8 TSI Gen 3 features the smallest IS12 turbo. Some 2.0 TSI engines, especially the ones on longitudinal Audi platforms, GTI, and A3, use larger IS20 turbochargers. While other 2.0 TSI, especially the ones on Arteon, S3, and Golf R, use the highest IS38 turbo.
Actuator failures on Gen 3 EA888 turbochargers are quite common. The wastegate is another point that fails more often. The actuator is an electronically controlled component that opens and closes the wastegate — increasing the boost pressure.
The actuator is serviceable and a separate unit from the turbo, but oftentimes, your dealer or mechanic will ask you to replace the actuator with the turbo. Turbo replacement is expensive, but at least it allows you to install a bigger OE turbo for increased boost and power.
Oil leaks from various parts
Another common 2.0 and 1.8 TSI EA888 Gen 3 problem is engine oil leaks on various engine parts. Engine oil leaks can occur from the seal on the Gen 3 cam bridge/adjuster. If that happens, the oil will drip down into the upper timing cover.
Oil leaks can occur at the upper timing cover of the EA888 Gen 3 engine. The rubber oil seal on the cover can become brittle and leak out oil. Fortunately, you can service or change the gasket on the upper timing cover without having to replace the cover itself.
The rear main oil seal that sits at the rear end of the engine, between the engine and the flywheel, is prone to leaks. This seal on Gen 3 fails more often than it should. Though the seal is not expensive, but the labor cost is high because it is labor-intensive. You’ll have to separate the transmission and the engine before you can access and replace the rear main seal.
The Volkswagen Gen 3 is an efficient engine. With the release of the Gen 3 B-cycle and EA888 Gen 4, it is an even better engine for fuel economy and power. However, it is far from the most reliable. The turbo actuator, turbo, PCV valve, rear main seal, timing covers, and cam bridge/adjuster are a few notable areas that need your attention.
Make sure you keep an eye on these EA888 common problems and don’t limit your inspection to the problems specific to the Gen 3. All the EA888 problems listed in this article can occur on your Gen 3.